European Satellite Navigation System Galileo Launches Initial Services
Thursday, December 15, 2016 | Comments

Europe's Galileo satellite navigation system began offering initial services to public authorities, businesses and citizens 15 December.

With Galileo satellites and ground infrastructure operationally ready, the signals will be highly accurate but not available all the time. Therefore, during the initial phase, the first Galileo signals will be used in combination with other satellite navigation systems, such as GPS.

The exact accuracy of the Galileo initial services and its expected performance and availability are published at the European GNSS Service Centre website.

In the coming years, new satellites will be launched to enlarge the Galileo constellation, which will gradually improve Galileo availability worldwide. The constellation is expected to reach full operational capacity by 2020. Galileo is fully interoperable with GPS but will offer more accurate and reliable positioning for users. The Galileo constellation consists of 18 satellites, all of which are already in orbit. The full constellation foresees a total of 30 satellites by 2020.

Galileo will deliver, in conjunction with GPS, the following free services:

Support to emergency operations: With the search and rescue (SAR) service, people placing a distress call from a Galileo-enabled beacon can now be found and rescued more quickly, because the detection time will be reduced to only 10 minutes. This service should be later improved by notifying the sender of the emergency call that he/she has been located and help is underway. Current satellites may take three or more hours before passing close enough to a beacon to detect it, and can only locate it to within 10 kilometers (km). The Galileo service picks up the signal within 10 minutes and narrows the range to 5 km, meaning that the area to be searched is one-quarter the size of the current area. This will help save lives at sea or in the mountains.

More accurate navigation for citizens: The Galileo open service will offer a free mass-market service for positioning, navigation and timing that can be used by Galileo-enabled chipsets in smartphones or in car-navigation systems. By 2018, Galileo will also be found in every new model of vehicle sold in Europe, providing enhanced navigation services to a range of devices as well as enabling the eCall in-vehicle emergency response system.

Better time synchronization for critical infrastructure: Galileo will, through its high-precision clocks, enable more resilient time synchronization of banking and financial transactions, telecommunications and energy distribution networks such as smart grids. This will help them operate more efficiently.

Secure services for public authorities: Galileo will also support public authorities such as civil protection services, humanitarian aid services, customs officers and the police through the public regulated service. It will offer a particularly robust and fully encrypted service for government users during national emergencies or crisis situations, such as terrorist attacks, to ensure continuity of services.

"Geolocalization is at the heart of the ongoing digital revolution with new services that transform our daily lives,” said European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic, responsible for the Energy Union. “Galileo will increase geolocation precision ten-fold and enable the next generation of location-based technologies such as autonomous cars, connected devices or smart city services.”

The first Galileo smartphone by Spanish company BQ is available on the market, and other manufacturers are expected to follow suit. Seventeen chipset companies representing more than 95 percent of global supply, already produce Galileo-compatible products, up from only three manufacturers in 2010.

Several global navigation systems, such as Glonass in Russia, Beidou in China and the next generation of GPS in the United States, are being built or improved. Galileo will be interoperable with GPS and compatible with others. Galileo is under European civilian control, and the system will be entirely owned by the EU. The system will support EU and national authorities in various areas, including emergency services, police, crisis management, border management and peacekeeping operations.

Galileo receivers can distinguish between direct signals and reflections. This will particularly improve accuracy in cities, where a large part of the sky is obscured by buildings, which can compromise accurate positioning.

"Galileo offering initial services is a major achievement for Europe and a first delivery of our recent space strategy,” said European Commissioner Elzbieta Bie?kowska. “This is the result of a concerted effort to design and build the most accurate satellite navigation system in the world. It demonstrates the technological excellence of Europe, its know-how and its commitment to delivering space-based services and applications. No single European country could have done it alone."

A study will be launched to look into possible standardization measures and putting in place a voluntary labeling and certification scheme for Galileo and the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS).

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